Is buying a soundbar worth it?
Recent technological advancements have seen TVs become ridiculously thinner. Sure, they produce crystal clear picture. But even the best of them don’t sound nearly as good as their picture quality. An obvious solution is to splash out on a home theatre sound system. However, a full home theatre package will cost you thousands of dollars, and in addition to the complexity of setting them up, they occupy a lot of space.
Soundbars offer a solution to these problems. With a soundbar, you get a sonic experience that closely matches the lifelike picture on your TV screen. Soundbars add amazing depth, power and clarity to your entertainment. Other obvious benefits include affordability, easy setup, and convenience of use. Succinctly, a soundbar is the best way to make your money work for you without having to endure the shoddy sound quality from your TV.
What to expect from a soundbar under $300?
While some soundbars can rival the sound output associated with expensive speakers and amplifier systems, their sound quality and features often depend on their price. The cheaper the model you choose, the more basic its features will likely be. For a soundbar in the $300 price range, you can expect high fidelity sound, clearer dialogue, and enhanced bass output. Most soundbars under $300 also come with more speakers, mid-range drivers and a more complex configuration. Soundbars like the Vizio SB3651-F6, Yamaha YAS-207BL and YAS-108 come with the latest audio processing technologies such as Dolby Atmos and DTS Virtual:X. A few models, such as the SB36512-F6, have rear surround speakers that create a genuine surround-sound system.
Most of the soundbars under $300 come with a dedicated external subwoofer, usually wireless, that adds a deeper bass impact to your music and movies. Other features you can expect are Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi connectivity, RCA/HDMI, and 4K/HDR pass-through.
Features to consider when choosing a soundbar
Not all soundbars are made equal. So, if you don’t choose the right one, you can end up with a soundbar that doesn’t suit your needs or one that barely improves your TV sound. Luckily, we’ve done all the hardwork for you. Read on to discover the most import things to consider before purchasing a soundbar.
Soundbar type and configuration
You’ve probably noticed numbers such as 2.1, 5.1, and 7.1 on soundbars. These numbers are usually used to indicate the number of channels your soundbar has, and if it is accompanied by a subwoofer. For example, a 2.1-channel soundbar has two front speaker channels and an external subwoofer. Similarly, a soundbar with a 5.1 configuration will have five speakers plus a separate subwoofer.
If you simply want to improve the sound of your TV, you could opt for a soundbar with 2.1 channels. However, for a true surround sound experience, you’ll need a soundbar with at least 3.1 or 5.1 channels.
You may also come across three numbers instead of two. For instance, a 5.1.4 configuration means that the soundbar uses the Dolby Atmos surround sound technology, with the number “4” indicating four upward-firing speakers. A soundbar with a similar configuration is the Vizio SB3651-F6 with 5.1.2 channels.
It’s worth noting that the sound quality of your soundbar is what defines your audio experience. Ideally, your soundbar should have a wide frequency range between 50 Hz and 20 KHz. For a deeper and more intense bass, you’ll want to purchase a unit that comes with a separate subwoofer. A subwoofer reproduces low-frequency sound effects from your movies and video games to create a fuller sonic experience. You’ll find the Vizio SB36512-F6 to be the best soundbar with wireless subwoofer under $300 on our list.
Also, the sound quality of your soundbar can depend on its configuration and audio processing technology. Some models use multi-channel speakers and object-based audio technologies that overcome the limitations of stereo in basic soundbars. You can experience spectacular 3D surround sound with the Vizio SB3651-F6 or Polk Audio Signa S2 that uses Dolby Digital processing, or Yamaha’s YAS-207BL and YAS-108 models that use DTS:X to add the element of depth and height.
When you’re in the market for a soundbar, be sure to choose one that has the necessary connections for your TV and other devices. Any good model will have all or either one digital connector (coaxial, optical, and HDMI), as well as analog stereo RCA or mini-jack inputs. Most new soundbars support the HDMI ARC feature that lets your TV transmit audio back to your soundbar. This allows you to connect your cable box, Blu-ray player, game console and other devices directly to your TV, and then send audio out through your TV’s HDMI ARC to the soundbar.
Note that you’ll need a soundbar that supports 4K and HDR pass-through if you plan to connect a Blu-ray player.
Apart from wired connections, many soundbars now support Bluetooth making it easy to play music from your mobile devices. In this review, the YAS-207 is the best soundbar under $300 with Bluetooth. Some models also come with built-in Wi-Fi which allows you to stream online from music sites such as Pandora, Spotify, etc. Wi-Fi connectivity also allows you to create a multi-room music connection or control your soundbar with Alexa or Google Assistant.
Dimensions and installation
Soundbars come in different shapes and dimensions. If you’ll be placing the soundbar on a cabinet beneath your TV, ensure that it is designed such that it doesn’t block your TV’s remote sensor, otherwise you can mount on a wall for a neater and uncluttered look. Whichever route you plan to go, be sure to check out dimensions such as length, width and depth of both your soundbar and TV. There’s nothing worse than unboxing your favorite soundbar only to discover that it doesn’t fit with your existing TV setup.
Your soundbar should also be easy to use and setup. In most soundbars, you’ll only need to connect a power cable, and an optical or HDMI cable to your TV. Your soundbar should also have a mounting kit and template that makes it simple and effortless to get on a wall. Ideally, your soundbar should come with its own remote to seamlessly control your unit. In this review, all our five soundbars have remote controls, but the AccuVoice AV203 is the best TV soundbar under $300 with the most solid remote.
Most manufacturers will give you warranties that cover up to 13 months. This gives you security and peace of mind in case something goes wrong with your soundbar or it doesn’t function properly. And speaking of security, Yamaha’s YAS-207 and YAS-108 give you the best deal with a warranty of 2 years each.